“Entrepreneurship: Policies and Prospects in Occupied Palestine” A Strategic Perspective of Social Enterprise Sustainability Authors: Dr. Anton Sabella & Lecturer NiveenEid Faculty of Business & Economics Birzeit University April. 11.2018
Introduction & Overview: Social Enterprise & Organisational Sustainability
Social enterprise as a distinct form of organising work & organisations • Defining a ‘social enterprise’- A review of literature ? • How social enterprises differ from other forms of businesses and not-for-profit organisations? • How should social enterprises be operated in order to ensure sustainability?
Authors’ definition • For the purpose of this research the following definition was adopted:
How social enterprises differ from other forms of organisations? • According to Dart (2004a) social enterprises differ from traditional not-for-profit organisations in that they emerge from a not-for-profit background and also in their application of business-like models to social issues. • This includes practices like revenue generation, market, client and commercial focus, as well as self-funding operations (Dart, 2004b). • According to Hood (1991) they differ from Businesses in their focus on effectiveness and efficiency to help establish social and economic legitimacy – a new form of management so called ‘social management’.
Why have social enterprises emerged?Teasdale (2012) provides four theoretical approaches:
Why to study social enterprises in Palestine? • Sustainable social enterprises are necessary to solve the central problem of Palestinians’ survival; that is, looking for ways for nearly 4.5 million Palestinians to survive and flourish in a land characterised by lack of access to resources, harsh economic conditions, and a dim political outlook (PCBS, 2011). • The economy of Palestine is considered a developing one with its roots in agriculture and fisheries, services sector, and construction. The economy took form only after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority as a result of the signing of the Oslo Agreement, and ever since growth in the Palestinian economy was mainly attributed to near consistent foreign aid (Sabellaet al., 2014). • As a result of the ongoing occupation, the Palestinian economy continues to operate much below potential with unemployment stubbornly remaining high, hovering around 26% in 2017, and poverty and food insecurity posing a serious threat.
Contextualisingorganisational sustainability within the social enterprise field • Organisational sustainability is referred to as ensuring the existence of the organisation while maintaining its services, to a deeper notion that sustainability is ‘a way of life’ (e.g. Okorley and Nkrumah, 2012; Bagnoli and Megali, 2009). The latter perspective suggests a multidimensional and multifaceted practice. • Elkington (1997) – view of sustainability includes social, economic and environmental attributes.
Forms of sustainability as a study dimension (Ex-post outcome) • Organizational Sustainability is not defined as an end by itself but rather as a process.
Need for study & the adoption of a critical research perspective • This paper seeks to redress the current gap in the literature at two levels:
Research Purpose • In a constrained environment (Palestine), social enterprise sustainability is trapped in a ‘survival and maintenance’ mode characterised by obscurity. • The purpose of this paper is to explore the phenomenon of sustainability from a strategic perspective by looking at two case studies that managed to thrive and grow. • In this regard, this study explores the phenomenon of a social enterprise – its dynamic nature, evolution, and progress – from a strategic perspective and how in turn strategic managerial determinants and dimensions contribute to the enterprise’s sustainability.
A Qualitative research approachhas been adopted using content and thematic analysis for data gathered from multiple cases (social enterprises). • The exploratory nature of the study requires reflective understanding of the practices and processes used by social enterprises that ensure their sustainability in a constrained environment, particularly by focusing on the naturalistic, real-life settings of the present research (Patton, 2009). • Two case studies were chosen out of an initial sampling frame of 12 social enterprises located in the Ramallah Governorate in Palestine. • The case selection criteriawere based on sector and form of enterprises. (a) Having a social purpose (b) Operating in a business-like (for-profit) model. (c ) Endurability, the chosen cases have been operating for more than seven years.
Findings and discussions • Three main themes emerged from the deep analysis of data including: Stakeholder Orientation (Context Level); Relationship-Oriented Organisation (Organisational Level); and Entrepreneurial Behavior (Individual Level). • Figure 1 provides a framework highlighting some normative pointers based on these themes and towards enhancing social enterprise sustainability in a constrained context. • Sustainability is not a straightforward mechanism but rather an unreserved elaboration of various dimensions that validate social enterprise sustainability within a dynamic and strategic sphere.
Theme (1): Stakeholder orientation • Freeman (1984:p. 13) defined stakeholder orientation as ‘those groups without whose support the organization would cease to exist’. In this respect, the findings have revealed that the sustainability of social enterprises is a socio-political process.The community and all stakeholders can either support or cease the enterprise effort.
1.1. Legitimacy • Legitimacy as defined in ‘a generalised perception or assumption that the actions of an entity are desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and definitions’ (Suchman, 1995: p. 574). • Both enterprises felt a strong need for an interminable interaction with the community in which they operate and establishing legitimacy was an important milestone to meet the enterprise needs after exploring the needs of the targeted stakeholders.
1.2. Social engagement • To maintain their legitimacy, both enterprises have emphasised the importance of social engagement as means to reduce the psychological and physical distance of stakeholders from the enterprise. • According to Greenwood (2007), the more the enterprise engages with its stakeholders, the more it is responsible and accountable. • However, real engagement comes from holding the community itself responsible for its own actions and development.
1.3. Social capital and value creation • Value creation and social capital, although different, are closely related features of one idea that sprung out of the enterprises’ resolute beliefs in truthful stakeholder engagement. • Whereas value creation is seen as an end to demanding social engagement, social capital is best characterised by a ‘logical circulatory’ which views social capital outcome as the result of its causes (Portes, 2000). • The building of teams, partnerships, and networks are most obvious in depicting how these two enterprises create and maintain value and social capital.
Theme (2):A relationship – oriented enterprise • In this respect, ‘what’ and ‘how’ work is done in both enterprises, as evident in their reliance on the interaction between their organisations and the community at large, is a signpost of a business model interweaving strategic and operational dynamics into a synergetic whole= relationship –oriented enterprise. • This s supported by Peelen (2005) stating that the cultivation and optimisation of trust and commitment between the enterprise and its customers can ensure the continuation of the enterprise as well as its development over the long-run. • Both enterprises have exhibited their utmost consent and certitude to building long-lasting relationships with their partners on the premises of commitment, attraction, satisfaction and trust.
2.1. Community development • Community development= which for these two organisations means the purpose behind their existence. According to the informants, the implication of this recognition extends well beyond bridging social gaps or achieving communal economic goals. It is transforming people’s attitude from a state characterised by passive participation to a state of active engagement.
2.2. Learning organisational culture • The studied cases revealed that a culture of ownership and learning is grounded in these two organisations; values such as fairness, openness, diversity, initiative, giving, nationalism and creativity were evident.
2.3. Fermented and unconventional practices • The two enterprises exhibited a creative utilisation of fermented and unconventional practices, based on a hybrid knowledge of business and value chain models found in not-for-profit and business organisations; they both exhibited a management style and approach that correspond to what was termed by Hood (1991) as ‘social management’. • They also applied traditional commercial activities of advertising and sales. • Also they both distinctively practiced the so called “social marketing” and “relationship marketing”.
Theme (3): Entrepreneurial behavior • The work of both enterprises emanates from the founders’ true sense of obligation towards their communities and strong belief in their ability to change and transform the society for the better. • The findings agree with those of Tan et al. (2005): in both cases the so-called social entrepreneur acts in an altruistic nature guided by the present and future benefits captured by the community.
3.1. Alertness to opportunities • Alertness to opportunities, an important characteristic of entrepreneursaccording to Kirzner (1973), captures and explains how these social enterprises came to be. • Both founders were depicted as building mental models of the societies they live in using alertness, thus directing their attention and efforts towards a specific line of action (e.g. social change) and helping them interpret this information in atypical ways.
3.2. Transformational Leadership • A ‘Transformational Leadership’ concept dubbed by Burns (1978) and later extended by Bass (1990), characterises to a large degree, the work carried out by the founders of these enterprises. • Social entrepreneurs in this paper were also referred to as transformational leaders because their aim was to transform mentalities, culture, mindset and to alter the community’s perspective from being powerless to becoming creators of change. • Altering the negative views held by different constituents. • Witnessing the enterprises’ achievements in terms of colliding efforts, beliefs, motivation and competencies of the different groups of stakeholders who were directly affected by and involved in the work, have paved the way for active engagement.
Concluding remarks • The conclusions of this paper recognise the need for social enterprise sustainability to be subject to further more rigorous research and theorisation in the broader management and marketing literature. • The suggested framework requires further testing and validation to support the contribution of management and marketing concepts to the sustainability of social enterprise. • Also, case studies examining social enterprises from an organisationalbehaviour perspective should offer valuable insights with regards to inter-organisational collaborations, and how organisational power and politics are intertwinedin the emergence and evolution of such enterprises.